On Veterans Day, November 11, 2008, the World Can’t Wait held an event to put forward information to US citizens about the implications of the position of the president elect on the occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan and the volatile situation in the Middle East in general.  The speakers represented widely divergent stands on domestic politics, but were in striking agreement on the main issue: Obama’s position on Iraq, Afghanistan, and Iran is not different from Bush’s; thus, change on these matters in not in our future.

This is a long and detailed account of the event.  It is filled with the kinds of details that are omitted from corporate media accounts of current affairs.  I urge you to read it all and to respond with comments and to suggest other sources of information on this topic.
The first speaker was Scott Ritter, former marine intelligence officer and chief UN arms inspector in Iraq from 1991-98.  He directed his first remarks to the issue of our veterans saying that the VA’s figure of 23% of recent veterans afflicted with PTSD stands in contrast to another study that puts the number at over 60%.  Ritter says that war, which in his mind may sometimes but only very rarely be necessary, leaves 100% of the people who fight scarred and wounded forever.  He deplored the current unnecessary wars devastating not only innocent countries but our own young people who are serving.

He also remarked that over 90% of the fatalities of the invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, and more recently Pakistan and Syria, are innocent civilians.

On the subject of the president elect, he said several times that Obama does not have sufficient status to institute things in the area of the Middle East, even if he had independent views.   Ritter did not specify who the “powers that be” in these matters are, the persons whose views and plans will prevail.  The infamous “military industrial complex?”  Certainly, I am aware of unseen, nefarious hands at work in our country.  I would have liked to know if Ritter can identify who or what is operating in these matters.

He says that Obama is as ignorant of Iraq and the Middle East as Bush and will inherit a mess.   Obama committed during the campaign to keeping a military presence in Iraq, though few Americans realize that.  What complicates the situation more is the “mess” Ritter refers to: the nearly certain failure of the US in the last months of the Bush regime to reach an agreement with Iraq about withdrawal of troops.  Legally, the US will then be in a very bad position.  Will it go back to the UN and will that body be more likely to view US aggression more favorably now than in 2003?

Ritter proposed a very interesting metaphor to replace what he calls the “Pottery Barn” idea.   He suggested that anyone with legitimate business in a Pottery Barn store who happens to knock over a vase can pay for it and feel virtuous in righting the situation, going on about their business free from guilt.

Ritter thinks the analogy is not appropriate for Iraq.  Rather, he suggests the “Bull in the china shop” image.  First, no bull has legitimate business in a china shop.  Even the slightest movement of the bull causes massive damage.  If one pays for the breakage at any moment, the next there is more.  The solution in this case is to get the bull out of the china shop.

When asked how the US can possibly get out with the oil subject to being taken by Russia or China, or some other catastrophe, Ritter said he was tired of the hubris of the US.  What gives us the right to make decisions for other countries?  He had lived in Iraq for seven years and knows the Iraqis to be intelligent people quite competent to manage their own affairs.

If Obama does not leave Iraq immediately, he will be in a deeper and deeper morass there, exactly as Bush has been.

As for a “good” war in Afghanistan and expanding it to Pakistan, Ritter says there is no good war anywhere, ever; and, very rarely justifiable ones.  Obama’s claim to get Bin Laden and rout out the “terrorists” and “win” is based on fantasy.  Ritter says Obama holds this position because as leader of the country he cannot be seen to “lose,” to be “defeated.”  Fighting a “good” war, bombing Pakistan where the “bad guys” live or hide makes him and the US appear to be strong, at least to US eyes.  In my mind this posturing is related to flight decks and mission accomplished signs.  Ritter pointed out that it will mean more civilian deaths, more billions squandered, more US military deaths, and no good served.   Again, this policy looks just like the Bush regime’s.

Finally, on Iran, according to Ritter, Obama says exactly what Bush has said.  In a speech since his election, Obama has said that Iran’s desire for nuclear weapons is a “threat to the world” and that Iran supports “terrorists.”  Ritter says such statements are “false, irresponsible, dangerous, and will not lead to negotiations” with Iran and others in the region and around the world.  Ritter referenced El Baradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, whose inspectors have certified that Iran not only does not have nuclear capacity, nor is it working toward nuclear arms.  You can click here to read about the work of El Baradei on this blog.

As for supporting terrorists, calling legitimately elected political parties in the area terrorists is incorrect and will not allow the kind of negotiations that could help the area and the world.  Furthermore, such an intractable hard line against Iran could lead Obama into war with that country.  Bush lied about WMD in Iraq as a reason for invading that country and has been building a similar case against Iran.  Obama is already lying about nuclear weapons in Iran, too.  Just like Bush.

It is also ironic that Obama, as Bush does, fulminates against Iran which cannot so much as turn on a light bulb with nuclear energy, and recklessly advocates invasion of Pakistan which has, right now, nuclear weapons.  Getting Pakistan involved is an invitation for disaster.  Bush preempted Obama by invading that country before he leaves office, but Obama promises to continue.

Obama’s positions, determined no doubt by the same powerful interests that have driven the Bush regime, are exactly like them in every area.

Where is the change?


The next speaker was Larry Everest, author of Oil, Power and Empire: Iraq and the U.S. Agenda, a journalist with thirty years experience in the Middle East.

Everest began by asking us to think about the day before the election when a wedding party in Afghanistan was attacked by US bombs blowing bodies to pieces, destroying lives of children, women, and men.  This celebration of life was interrupted by US agents of death and destruction.  This is only one of many weddings destroyed by the US.  These dead are among the more than one million people who have died directly at the hands of the US in Iraq and Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Syria.

Everest said that in all the Obama talk about change, it appears that wars for empire are not going to change.

He posits that the Bush regime had a plan upon arriving in the White House for a major intervention in the region.  They wanted to entirely remake that part of the world, deposing legitimate governments and establishing US hegemony over the oil and resources there and fencing in Russia and China.  Afghanistan had long been targeted as a starting place before the events of September 11, 2001.  Obama promises to continue that plan

Although on many topics, especially about how to respond to the current constitutional crisis in the US, Everest and Ritter would disagree, in the matter of the wars and occupations, they agree exactly.  Obama’s position is Bush’s.

Everest says that the choice to have a permanent military presence in Iraq will mean no peace there and is driven by a desire for empire and the oil.  Obama’s position on Iran is, like Bush’s, informed by the power elite’s desire for hegemony.

Everest, like Ritter, sees no change.

He added in a sort of aside that it is ironic to him that a black man should be taking on the mantle of the repressive elite in this country.  He spoke of a parallel with Colin Powell, the first black head of the Joint Chiefs, the first black Secretary of State.  Who, Everest asked, could they have sent to the UN to pitch for the invasion of Iraq?  Cheney?  Rumsfeld?  Bush himself?  No, the one who was presentable was Powell, who has since said that his appearance there is a “blot upon my record.”   Who better now to be the front man for the military industrial complex’s wars of aggression than an articulate and personable black man.  I wonder if the day will come when Obama says his doing what he had to do about these illegal invasions and occupations in order to be President will be a similar stain on his record.

Jeremy Scahill, who wrote Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army, was supposed to speak as well.  Since I have not heard Obama say that he will fire the mercenaries immediately, which is the only just and moral thing to do, I was eager to hear what Scahill has to say about them.  He was, however, detained on the West Coast, and sent his regrets to the organizers.


Elaine Brower, mother of a soldier in Iraq right now, peace activist who devotes full time and boundless energy to stopping the wars, spoke briefly.  She said that as a life long Democrat, she has been puzzled by the failure of the Democratic Party to move forward, especially since the 2006 elections.  The night of the presidential elections, she said she had a moment of feeling proud that Americans had elected a black man, but that the moment was very short lived due to his positions.  She was on the street at the first protest of the war after the election the next day and is continuing her work.

I post all this detail because none of the corporate media covered this event.  Indeed, it is in their interest and that of the elite who own them that these experts not be heard, that their evidence not be presented.  Though Ritter and Everest are known and respected in many parts of the world, only a few in the US know them.  Part of my own activism involves trying to get information out.  I urge anyone who reads this to pass it on to others who might benefit.

A person from the audience asked the panelists what we should do now, in practical terms, to stop the aggression.  This, of course, is my primary question, too.  I will report what I understood each one to say.

Ritter says we should be “better Americans,” specifically putting pressure on the Congress to act.  I found that response ironic.  In that audience, probably without Ritter’s knowledge, are persons I know who have gone to jail for peacefully but firmly trying to pressure members of Congress to act responsibly.  There were persons in that audience who, at great expense of time and money, have been tireless in attendance on members of Congress in Washington, in the halls of Congress, in hearing rooms, in offices.  There are photographs of them and reports of their activities on this blog.  Many of us there have spent the last six or eight years working to get this government to respond.  I wanted to ask him if he has ever telephoned every member of the Senate before an important vote, every member of committees of both houses when important legislation was pending, written hundreds of letters.


Sharon, fearless worker for peace and justice.

I have done the telephoning and the writing and can assure you that there is no response.  A most eloquent recent example was the outpouring of dissent expressed by US citizens about the Wall Street bailout.  Mike Whitney reported one analyst saying that Americans calling their officials were 50% “no” and 50% “hell, no.”  Both houses of Congress passed that bailout without review in committee, without discussion, just as they did the Patriot Act seven years ago.

When I was twenty-five years old, I wrote to my senator, Mr. Albert Gore, Sr. about a matter.  He replied personally and told me that a member of his staff would be working on the matter and keeping me informed.  I received several letters from that person as well.  Such a response today is unimaginable.

So, while I, too, like Scott Ritter, want to see us live up to our Constitution, I did not come away from his remarks with any clear ideas of what to do that will work.

Everest believes that the US system is broken beyond repair and that we need a revolution.  He does not believe a capitalist economic system can ever be democratic.  He is a member of an American communist party that seeks a new order.

Like Larry Everest, I can see that the US system is broken, but I did not hear from him a clear way to fix it and will not look for solutions from his party.

I left that event feeling that my own assessment of Obama, based on careful study, was validated by persons who have access to pertinent information.  I do not, however, see any direction for what to do next.  I will continue to stand on the street and cry “No torture, no war.”  I will continue to oppose US aggression and militarism, actions by any regime that violate US and international laws, and unjust economic and financial actions.

I must continue to seek ways to help build a better world.


One Response to “NO MORE WAR FOR EMPIRE”

  1. nancy Says:

    Even since posting this, new information emerges. Read about it at:

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